Sunday, January 06, 2013

Shoe Review: Inov-8 Bare-X 180

A few months of anxious waiting turned into excitement when my Inov-8 Bare-X 180 shoes finally arrived in Singapore last month. I desperately needed a new pair of running shoes as the Nike Air Zoom Streak XC 2 was breaking down. As you can see in the picture below, a big patch of the sole on the forefoot was already smooth, and sole on the bottom half of the shoe had fallen off. I was afraid to sprint when the track was wet, and water would get in where the sole had fallen off.

I bought the Bare-X 180 from Running Warehouse for about US$98. It is a bona fide barefoot-type shoe, having a zero drop sole with a stack height of 6mm (both heel and forefoot) and a 3mm footbed.

A size 9 weighs 6.4oz. In comparison, a size 9 of Nike's Zoom Streak XC 2 weighs 5.4oz. Inov-8 could have made the shoe lighter if they wanted, by using different materials. For example, in the three pictures below you can see that the 180's upper is thicker than that of the Streak XC 2, which is just mesh.

In fact, having worn the Streak XC 2 for over two years, I have had some difficulty adjusting to the thicker upper of the 180's. They make the top and sides feet feel like they are drowning in cushion. I resorted to tying my shoe laces one hole back so that the tongue could move upwards, reducing the snugness of the fit. That provided some relief and my feet felt less claustrophobic in the shoe.

Some people have commented that the toe box of the 180's is slightly narrower than that of the New Balance Minimus Road Zero and Altra. I am not one that tolerates pointy shoes, and find the toe box of the 180's to be absolutely fine and wide enough for foot splaying.

The shoe is also comfortable enough to wear without socks. Unlike the Streak XC 2, the 180's do not have material sticking out at the toe box, so there is no risk of getting blisters. I had a comfortable three-hour sockless walk in the shoes today, and am of the opinion that they make great walking shoes as well.


The sole of the 180's is made of rubber that feels interestingly different to the touch. The way it interacts with the ground also feels unique, and is definitely different from all the other shoes I have ever worn. Even though the sole does not have any nubs on it and looks kind of smooth, perhaps giving the impression that it would be slippery in wet weather, I have not found that to be the case.

So far, I have sprinted in these shoes on a wet track at least three times. They did not feel grippy, but felt safe enough for me to run at top speed without any fear of slipping and falling. I have not tried running on wet gravel yet, but will post an update when I do.

As regards the barefoot feel, these shoes are amazing. Being as thick as the Luna Sandals, they allow me to feel as much of the ground as I had felt wearing the Sandals, but with more foot protection and without that annoying knot between the big toe and second toe. These are the shoes I should 100% have bought over the Luna Sandals.

Bendy enough for me. The picture says it all.

Something puzzling about the shoe is the length of the shoe laces. They are really long, as you may be able to see from the left shoe in the picture. As I do not like the laces flapping about when I run, I have been tucking the bows into the shoe. Could also be a hazard if someone stepped on them while you were walking, or they get sucked up into the sides of escalators (shudder).

(If someone from Inov-8 is reading this, perhaps you can explain!)


I am really happy with these shoes so far and think I absolutely made the right decision buying them. They were worth the weight, and there's a good chance I will stick with the Inov-8 Bare-X line from now.

My only wish is that having heard good things about the Merrell barefoot line and New Balance Minimus Zero shoes, I wish I could try them out to see how they compare with the Inov-8s.

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